Promoting Community Well-Being: A Collaboration Between The Elkton Community Education Center and Vista Wellness Center


By: Jen Champion 

The Elkton Education Community Center (ECEC) and Vista Wellness Center are collaborating to address the healthcare needs of Elkton and surrounding communities.

Introducing holistic health services, particularly yoga, is a component of their ECEC Rural Health Care Initiative. 

The Wellness Initiative focuses on preventative programs and partnerships to enhance accessibility to health and wellness services. The initiative aims to improve the overall quality of life. It is open to all community members, with a particular emphasis on seniors, individuals with chronic illnesses, and those with limited incomes.

Jen Champion, a yoga instructor with Vista Wellness Center, is on the ECEC campus every Wednesday, offering floor and chair classes. Yoga and holistic approaches to health enhance an interconnectedness of physical, mental, and emotional aspects and help to alleviate symptoms and promote a healthier lifestyle.

At the heart of ECEC’s success lie its volunteers. The commitment of volunteers is pivotal in implementing and sustaining programs and their 30-acre campus. 

Their Youth Employment Project hires local high school students to work as tour guides in the Butterfly Pavilion and Fort Umpqua, help maintain the gardens, and staff the Outpost Café and Produce Stand. AmeriCorps volunteers play a part in ECEC as well. Currently, Ruby Ackerman, an AmeriCorps Member, serves as a Wellness Advocate and plays a significant role in bringing yoga to ECEC.

ECEC is bridging the healthcare gap in rural areas. Within their Rural Health Care Initiative, they provide yoga classes and a range of holistic services, nurturing the vitality and wellness of residents and the vibrant communities they create.

Interested in providing services for the initiative?  Contact Ruby Ackerman

Connect with Jen and Vista Wellness Center 

Map of Oregon in segments of areas with unmet healthcare needs.

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Yoga Nidra: Awake, Aware, Amazing

By: Jen Champion

Do you ever feel like you wish you could take a nap? A short one, a rest, and a reset? I understand. I see the benefits in my husband including brighter eyes and smile, pep in his step, and definitely funnier. He knows how to do it right! A nap can provide rest, a clear mind, and energy. Experts say a 10-20 minute nap can improve health and productivity. Sleep imbalances appear in many ways. They can start unnoticed and lead to illness.

Are you willing to try something new? What if you can do it lying down with your eyes closed? How about if the Surgeon General of the United States Army endorsed it as a Complementary Alternative Medicine? Researchers say 30 minutes of the practice of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of 3 hours of sleep.

Yoga Nidra, also called Yogic Sleep, is a practice where we learn to put our minds to deep rest. Here, physical, mental, and emotional tensions are released, and balance and healing transpire. Yes, you can feel those qualities and are entitled to them! As with all practices, repetition is necessary for abounding experiences.  

 The Yoga Nidra practice is in the Upanishads, a yogic text featuring philosophical teachings about the various paths of yoga. Today, there are multiple styles of Yoga Nidra; however, the authentic ones implement but are not limited to, the same principles from history: while aware and awake, one finds physical comfort, breath awareness, intention setting, gentle movements, contraction and release of muscles, guidance through points in the body, and guided imagery.

Why do we want to rest but remain awake? How can that be relaxing?

A bounty of benefits ripens with the practice of Yoga Nidra: sleep improves, deepens the process of learning and maintaining information, opens and strengthens the connection between the conscious and subconscious, reprograms the subconscious, reduces symptoms of stress-related illnesses, and increases and supports vitality.

We get to take a break from our sensory overload and sift through the unlimited storage in our subconscious. Our subconscious is like a tape recording of programs. It is a limitless stock of memories that affect our feelings and behaviors. The sounds we hear, the scents we inhale, and the vibrations we feel are registered in our subconscious.

That is a lot to take in! We can discard that which is not relevant and rearrange what is! We can eliminate and replace our prerecorded storage with the stories, goals, and dreams that foster transformations to live our most fulfilled lives now. The Hebbian Theory is that “neurons that fire together wire together.” What we say to ourselves is what our brains believe and what our lives become. We must be careful what we say and think. We are always listening.  

There are many techniques to help us open the channels between the subconscious and the conscious and live in a more divine alignment. One way is repetition. Think it, say it, do it, own it! Wear headphones while you sleep with the messages you want to hear and the goals you want for your reality. Allow yourself space and time to be with your thoughts and notice when your patterns play tunes that deplete you and fill them with groovy tunes and truths for you now. 

When we shift our awareness from the outer to the inner world, we separate from what we have little control over. Through cultivating and practicing deep relaxation through Yoga Nidra, we train our bodies to release tensions and create space for experiences of pleasure, ease, and resilience to stress. When challenges arise, we can maintain our stability and comfort, remain balanced and fulfilled, and inspire others to do the same

Enjoy the Yoga Nidra practice. You can schedule a private, small group in-person or online session. Prepare a space on the floor with yoga mats, blankets, pillows, and an eye pillow of cloth over your eyes. You can practice on your bed or couch, but you will likely recall your other activities there, like tv and sleep. Get comfortable, and let’s begin.

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The First Lady of the Flute


By: Jen Champion 

I’ve always been intrigued by the breath and the unique qualities of being able to control and ignore it. We breathe without thinking about it and hold our breath more than we know. Holding our breath and not breathing correctly contribute to body tension and reduced lung capacity. This is not a place where we can function optimally. Breathing is our essence; we must ensure we are familiar with breathing correctly and then do it. 

Abdominal/ Belly Breathing. Abdominal/Belly Breathing is a therapeutic exercise that strengthens our lungs, heart, and diaphragm. This practice relaxes the nervous system, lowers heart rate, and helps us gain resilience to stress. Babies naturally breathe in this way. As we move through life, we change our patterns and do not even realize we are not living optimally. 

Try this…

Sit tall with your body feeling the support of your chair. Bring awareness to the opening of your nostrils. Notice how you are breathing. Do you feel it mostly in your chest, neck, and shoulders? Try again. Be aware of your belly and receive an expansion there as you inhale, allowing your diaphragm to descend on the inhale and ascend on the exhale. Do you feel the difference? Keep practicing. Returning to a natural, relaxed breathing state of smooth, deep breathing takes time.

 As a child, I would sit quietly and try not to hear the sounds around me. 

I started to notice that I could feel and hear my breath. I was able to calm down and zone out. Sometimes I would catch an underlying current of awareness that felt far away from my outside world. I later learned it is called energy, prana, and chi. I continue to foster that connection. I study and practice yoga, aromatherapy, herbalism, and earth-based traditions that enhance my ability to what I now call zone in. My favorite recent discovery is using the breath to inspire the Native American Flute.

The most exciting part about my discovery is I was in a community flute circle with the First Lady of the Flute, Mary Youngblood. I heard about Mary and the Flutestock event from my husband. He plays various instruments, including his friend Jim’s handmade flutes. 

At Flutestock, we made our way to Mary’s flute circle. Humorous, humble, and happy, she gifted us lessons with stories, laughter, inspiration, and guidance. Mary introduced herself, “I’m half Alutiiq (Aleut) on my mom’s side, and my father was mostly Cherokee from Florida. When I would say my parents were from Alaska and Florida, people would ask how did that happen? I would jokingly say, White man give us car, but the US Navy had everything to do with that!”

Mary’s eyes twinkled as she told stories and closed them when her breath gave life to her flute. I felt many emotions as she expressed hers through sounds that emanated from nature. I felt the wind around me, the earth below me, and held by something more profound than myself.

 Mary began making music as a child, but it was when she was an adult that she began playing the flute. She is the first Native American Woman to record flute music and is honorably the First Lady of the Flute. Mary’s flute recordings have earned her multiple distinguished awards. She was the first female artist to win “Flutist of the Year” in 1999 and “Best Female Artist” in 2000. She is the first Native American woman to receive a Grammy Award for “Best Native American Music Album” and the first Native American woman to have won two Grammy’s, the first for Beneath the Raven Moon in 2002 and Dance with the Wind in 2006. WOW! You may see now why I am highlighting her in honor of Women’s History Month.

Mary enjoys creating music to entertain and comfort people. She offers her songs to help reduce anxiety and stress and provides a relaxing atmosphere for people in hospice settings. Mary uses her breath in specific ways and chooses distinctive flutes to tell her stories. Different notes and melodies express emotions and moods that convey her feelings. Her flute songs are played for ceremonies and celebrations and as a spiritual and healing instrument. 

When we take time to sit and breathe with awareness, we enter a relaxed state of “rest and digest”. In that place, we can deepen our insight into our needs and well-being. Whether we intend to have fun or practice mindful relaxing, may we be inspired to unleash sounds, songs, and stories with our voices and instruments. Join Mary and me in our April newsletter. You will access our conversation, where we go deeper into the myth, magic, meditative and healing qualities within and around the Native American flute.  

If you have any questions for Mary, send them to me and I will include as many as possible. 

Practice with Mary Youngblood 

Listen to her Grammy Award Winning Songs through the links below.

Beneath the Raven Moon  

Feed the Fire 

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A Recipe That Will Make You Say MMM


By: Jen Champion 

Are you looking for a gift for yourself or someone you care for? One that is free and accessible to everyone? A gift that keeps giving through a lifetime.

I have a recipe to help manage your mind, mood, and manners. It may be the gift we all need to help ease our way through the holiday season and year.

We are gifts of nature. We are born gifted. We have a brilliant body to work with, infused with love, light, and unlimited potential.

As we maintain our brilliance, we can shine our light, reflect on others, and mirror others for personal and all of humanity’s upliftment.

Let’s visit my pantry and gather ingredients to replenish ourselves with a sweet and savory recipe.

Ingredient 1 Breath Awareness to help manage your mind

For the best results, learn and practice the technique when you are not stressed. Be patient without judgment. Enjoy those bonus gifts.

The Practice

Go to a location where you will not be disturbed. Settle into a comfortable position.

Pretend your mind has a radio dial, and you tune it to a quiet frequency. It will be out of tune and fuzzy now and again, so you will have to adjust it as often as needed. Once you have dialed in, invite your mind’s awareness to focus on the opening of your nostrils. Feel the air moving in and out.

Without forcing, encourage your inhale and exhale to lengthen to help bring more awareness to your body. Feel your body respond to your breathing. Place one hand over your heart and one on your belly. Feel your body respond to your breathing and touch.

Find comfort in the sensations of your breath. Without forcing, invite the following qualities of breath into your awareness. Smooth, Deep, Even, Continuous, Quiet. Rest and Receive as long as you are able. Carry the practice and effects/effects as you move through your day.

Ingredient 2 Movement to help manage your mood

Movement is a natural mood medicine. Movement, especially in a community, helps create a sense of belonging and trust.

For thousands of years, brilliant bodies have been moving. Often in communities due to nomadic lifestyles and foraging for food.

Ceremonies and celebrations include movement in every culture across the world. I enjoy reading, referencing, and listening to the Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal.

She shares history, culture, and compelling stories on the magnificence of movement.

Many of us do twisting and forward folding multiple times during our day. When done with awareness and intention, as in a yoga practice, twists can restore balance in the nervous system. Spinal rotations also reduce physical, mental, and emotional tensions and provide flexibility in the spine and hips. They strengthen the body’s core, stabilization, and energetic center.

Forward folds flavor a practice by tuning out the chatter and static of the mind and deepening presence in the moment. 

Move in ways that feel comfortable and stable. If unsure, consult someone to determine if these shapes are for you.

The Practice – Seated and Knee Down Twist with Bolster

The Bolster Belly Hug is a restorative version that you can do on your bed or floor.
Use a yoga bolster or firm pillows/folded blankets.
Sit alongside the bolster with your thigh and hip in contact with it.
Turn your torso toward the bolster with one hand on each side.
Focus on your breathing and lower your torso onto the bolster.
Turn your head in the direction of your knees.
Focus on breathing, relax, and rest for 2-5 minutes.
Repeat this on your other side.

Forward Folds can be practiced with the support of a chair. The seated version offers a broadening and lengthening to the back. The standing versions include stretching and release from the heels to the crown of the head. The middle picture demonstrates knees bent for a safer entry point.

Legs up the Wall
supports fresh, oxygenated blood to flow to the upper extremities and stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid.

The lymphatic filter and breaks down bacteria and other potentially harmful cells. It helps reduce aching muscles, swelling in feet, ankles, and legs.

One can settle more easily in the rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system.

Place a folded blanket beside the wall for your back and a rolled towel near where your neck will land.
Sit with your right hip next to the wall.

Tune your mind to breathing and body awareness.

Activate your core muscles and adjust your body to ease your roll onto your right side. Continue until you are on your back. Get comfortable and rest with your knees bent and feet on the wall in front of you.

If all is well, begin to straighten your legs up the wall.

Tune your mind to breathing and body awareness.

You may have to adjust the distance between you and the wall to help you feel at ease in the pose.

Leg shapes are optional. Relax and rest for 5-10 minutes.

Ingredient 3 Kindness to manage your manners

Once we have found the proper measurements for our breathing and movements, we sprinkle in kindness.

The sweet act of kindness comes from pure joy.
Be kind to yourself and notice how your acts of kindness grow towards others.

Being an example is the best way to encourage others to feel good. We can all offer positive and uplifting experiences that contribute to a world with gratitude. 

The Practice – Circle of Joy Hug with Smile

Stand or sit in a stable and comfortable position. Bring awareness to your breath and body.
Smile. Inhale, and bring your palms together towards your sternum.
Exhale, interlace your fingers and stretch through the finger webs and wrists as you press down and forward.
Lift your arms to where you are comfortable and release the interlace of the fingers if needed.
Exhale, and release your arms out and down to your sides.
Inhale and wingspan arms.
Exhale and fold your arms in a Hug of Appreciation.
Keep smiling.
Inhale and wingspan arms.
Exhale and fold your arms in a Hug of Appreciation with the other arm on top.
Inhale and wingspan arms.
Close with palms together and a smile.

Now you have ingredients for managing your mind, mood, and manners. Blend well and enjoy. Your recipe is fresh, rich, and nourishing every time you indulge.

Savor the layers of experiences that arise. May you find calm and peace with mindful breathing. Elevate your mood with breath awareness, movements, smiles, and hugs. May your manners reflect your inner peace and joy from kindness. It is best when enjoyed with others.

MMM Good!

May this season of sharing and giving include self-care and appreciation for the gifts from within. Thank you for being a brilliant gift of nature.


By Amalia Trieger

What role do traditions play in your life? 

Like planting my grandpa’s favorite flowers every spring, or making a wreath in the winter as my grandma used to do, traditions can help us remember people who’ve gone before, and to honor their legacy. They don’t have to be serious to be meaningful. Passing on silly sayings through the generations, or enjoying a slice of cake to mark a birthday help us keep memories alive, and can be nostalgic, comforting, and familiar. 

As we roll into the winter months, we enter a time that’s rich in celebration, but holiday traditions aren’t always a source of comfort and joy. If we aspire to be thoughtful and compassionate towards others, it’s worth considering the ways in which traditions may also be painful, or in need of an upgrade. 

If you are newly sober and the holiday office party or the family gathering revolves around wine, it can be deeply uncomfortable or even impossible to attend. For many families, the added expense of shopping for holiday gifts puts strain on a budget already stretched thin. Ads depicting large gatherings around tables laden with food can feel ostracizing to those who don’t have families to go to, or who have difficult family dynamics. Many people will be grieving the loss of loved ones or continuing to stay isolated to protect medically fragile or immunocompromised friends and family, and the ongoing pandemic makes travel more challenging, even for those who can afford it. Some folks grew up within religious traditions that don’t accept their adult identities, leaving them without the structure of celebrating in the community. If the holidays are a lonely time for you, know that you aren’t alone. 

If you’ve ever wished for rituals to mark important events in your life, or in the yearly cycle, that felt more inclusive, welcoming, or simply fit better, here is a template for crafting a tradition that uplifts and centers the things that are important to you. Take out a pen, or open your computer, and write down whatever comes to mind in response to these prompts.

Step 1. Ask yourself what needs you’d like to meet with this tradition.

Do you need to grieve, to celebrate, to be playful, to receive an acknowledgement, to ask questions, to share bounty, to reflect? 

Step 2. Go way back.

Even if you never met them, it may be worth looking into your personal family history to discover what traditions have been practiced in the place your grandparents (or great great great grandparents) grew up. Some of these may be religious, and some secular. You might be surprised by what you find. There is also an opportunity for healing here. Generational trauma lives in our bodies, and creating ways to process that inherited trauma through ritual and ceremony can be profound. Knowing what we want to address with our traditions may be informed by things that happened in the past, but the echoes of which are alive today. 

Step 3. What support or companionship would you like?

You may want to share this new tradition with friends, family, or the wider community. Consider the energy of young people, the camaraderie in a group of people with shared experience, the perspective of wise elders, or, if solitude is what you need, maybe this tradition is one you do by yourself. Step 4. What are some tangible ways you can mark the occasion? 

This step is where creativity comes in. It can be as simple as lighting a candle, wearing a favorite piece of clothing, or planting a seed, and as elaborate as decorating an altar, organizing a singalong, hiking a challenging trail, or making a five-course meal. 

Step 4. Look to the natural world. 

In wisdom traditions and cultures around the globe, humans have celebrated the changing of the seasons and found ways to bring the beauty of nature into their artwork, ceremonies, and daily lives. In winter, if we take our cues from the shorter days, we may find a yearning to spend more time in silence, resting, reading, or listening. While a consumerist culture encourages ramping up, over-socializing and spending money, the rhythm of the season shows us another possibility. Tune in to the landscape that surrounds you by looking out the window and watching the light change, or taking a walk. Read nature-inspired poetry, or write some of your own! If you have access to outside space, collect colorful leaves, harvest wildflowers, pine boughs, seashells, interesting rocks, or whatever is to be found (without decimating your neighbor’s garden, of course).

Step 5. Balance inspiration with humility.

You might find ideas from other cultures that you’d like to incorporate into your tradition. 

It’s important to first ask whether the people whose culture you’re appreciating have been marginalized, harmed, or prevented from practicing the very same thing you’d like to do. Choosing to make our own traditions means we can be mindful of where power imbalances lie, and we can create meaningful celebrations that feed our desire for connection and comfort without appropriation or upholding structures of oppression. 

If the list feels overwhelming, boil it down to these three things that activist and minister Kathleen McTigue looks for in any ritual or practice: Intention, attention, and repetition. Why are you doing what you’re doing, are you paying attention as you do it, and is it something you’ll do again and again? 

Wherever this season has in store for you, remember that if you’ve been longing for new traditions, it’s very likely that others have to. Knowing that you’re in good company, trust your intuition, don’t be afraid to make things up, and share what you discover.

Don’t Just Stand There. Get Moving

By: Jen Champion

We have the power to heal and transform from the challenges we encounter. However, when our physical and mental patterns and habits do not support whole quality health, we can feel out of balance and ill. Our bodies develop grooves of anxiety, pain, and beliefs that keep us stuck in our dramas and traumas. If we do not take the time and steps to heal, prolonged stress creates chronic activation of the fight/flight response.

There are many places where we can feel tension. Often the head, neck, shoulders, and back alert us. The muscles, connective tissue, and nerves are intertwined, and at times, it’s hard to tell precisely where the pain originates. One section in the body, often unnoticed and holding tension, is called the psoas (so as) muscles. The psoas has many intricate details. I will speak briefly about them and list a few excellent resources for you to investigate.

The psoas are a group of deep muscles that often contract during times of stress, and they are like to stay contracted for some time once energized. They originate in the middle of the back and run down each side of the low back, pelvis, inner thighs, and hips. 


The psoas are continuously in use. The muscles participate in our daily actions, including standing, walking, running, and sitting. When they tighten and shorten, it leads to discomfort in various body parts. Pain can be present in the hips, groin, abdomen, and low back if the lumbar spine curve is too big or small.

Don’t just stand there, get moving. Gentle movements and releasing tensions in the psoas help eliminate the stress and pain. One way to lengthen the psoas is to walk with a short conscious gait. A constructive rest pose is a restorative approach. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel. Place your heels at a comfortable distance from your buttocks. Breathe and Rest. Lifting the sternum, relaxing the shoulders, and taking deep breaths can also affect the relaxation response in the psoas.

A yoga practice will assist people in gaining presence and patience to move tension out of the body and open to a more fulfilling life.

Yoga improves the core stability in the torso and pelvis and helps the psoas function optimally. Balance in the psoas and abdominal core muscles helps maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine, neutral pelvic alignment, and good posture. When we are in a stable comfortable position, our breathing capacity improves. With optimal breathing (deep, smooth, even, continuous and quiet), we gain a more profound recognition of how to move with comfort and ease on and off the yoga mat. We feel better physically and enhance our self-esteem. Good physical and mental health make life more enjoyable.

When we move and shape our bodies with patience and awareness, we can change our breath, thoughts, and patterns and live a more fulfilling life.

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International Yoga Day

By: Jen Champion

Vista Wellness Center will feature a free gentle yoga practice for the community on International Yoga Day, June 21, 2022. This is our local celebration in conjunction with hundreds of events worldwide. 

International Yoga Day is the official United Nations promotion of individual global health, harmony, and peace. This event’s origins date to 2015, when nearly 36,000 people, including political figures worldwide, performed 21 yoga postures for 35 minutes in New Delhi.

The event calls for the practice of joy in movement, compassion, kindness, and experiencing togetherness among all cultures. We can grow to recognize the kindness inherent in each of us and help strengthen the bonds that bring people together. Set an intention today to find value in everyone. Make a conscious effort to uphold and respect each other. Foster self-care and worth to help build individual resilience and strengthen our local and global communities.

Yoga helps people gain positive momentum toward good health and act from a place of friendliness and compassion. We can better realize our unlimited potential of self and our collective consciousness to support whole health throughout the whole world.

Join Instructor, Jen Champion and enjoy supportive yoga guidance in a safe place: 4-5 pm, Vista Wellness Center, 1531 Pearl Street, Eugene